In 1991 Daryl Braithwaite, former front-man for Sherbet had just revived his solo career with the album Edge (#1 In ’88) and the singles As the Days Go By (#9 in ’88), One Summer (#6 in ’89) and was looking to continue his comeback with his next record.
The new album was to be called Rise and Braithwaite was looking for another anthemic hit just like As the Days Go By, the production of the album was almost complete, but it seemed to lack a killer lead single. Braithwaite went home and pulled out his CD copy of Ricki Lee Jones (below) 1989 album Flying Cowboys, the first song he played was The Horses – Jones version was piano-based with a smoky, jazzy, intimate sound for which she had become justly famous – Chuck E’s in Love had been her biggest single success.
But Braithwaite was impressed and insisted on the song being included in the album, albeit a shorter, punchier, more accessible version that was adapted from the original and became a duet between Braithwaite and Kiwi singer Margaret Urlich.(below with Braithwaite)
Ricki Lee Jones had originally written the song in 1988 for her daughter Charlotte, and at the suggestion of Walter Becker (Steely Dan) had changed some of the chords in the chorus, so he got a writing credit as well.
The Australian version of the song by Braithwaite has assumed an anthemic status, the production by Simon Hussey, above (Australian Crawl, James Reyne, Craig McLachlan) was pop perfect, the opening is restrained and subtle, Scott Griffiths piano and keyboards glide over a sinuous bassline by Jeremy Alsop, rising to the chorus as Alex Pertout’s drums and tuned percussion effects (shaker, vibraslap, tambourine, bells) merge with the guitars of Jeff Scott and Tommy Emmanuel, swelling behind Braithwaite’s falsetto vocals which caress and cajole the song forward “That’s the way it’s gonna be little darlin’/ We’ll go riding on the horses yeah, yeah/ Way up in the sky little darlin’/ And if you fall, I’ll pick you up, pick you up.”
Margaret Urlich provided sexy, keening backup vocals, but she was either not available or unwilling to perform in the promo video as she was trying to establish a solo singing career, so model Gillian Mather (above) mimed her singing in the video set on a sun-drenched Bluey’s Beach, Foster, near Newcastle (NSW), and was quickly dubbed “Gilli Vanilli”, after the infamous duo Milli Vanilli, who had used session singers to ghost their vocals, and enjoyed great success, without ever singing a note. The song took three weeks to hit #1 locally and spent 30 weeks in the Top 100, the album Rise hit #2 in December 1990, and the Hawthorn AFL club (Melb) adopted the song as their unofficial anthem after particularly meritorious wins in Grand Finals.
The Horses was the ARIA Song of the Year and confirmed the reinvention of Braithwaite as a more mature adult-oriented performer and the Edge reinforced that status when it sold over 300,000 copies internationally, Jones and Becker were surprised but pleased with the Downunder success of their little album track from 1988.
In 1992 Braithwaite’s former managers Simon Fenner and Nathan Brenner (above) sued him for back-payment of fees, their claim was for $600,000 but they had to settle for $60,000, however legal costs were significant after a trial that meandered on for seven weeks. Ultimately Braithwaite had to surrender all the revenue from his two most successful solo albums Edge and Rise, and a portion of the revenue from his next album Taste of Salt, he finished up flat broke; and after the release of a Greatest Hits album in 1994, his record company Sony Music dropped him from their roster, he would not record another album for twelve years. Braithwaite would re-invent himself as a live performer on the heritage rock circuit becoming a regular performer at music festivals and corporate events, and he now enjoys a cross -generational popularity, and his hits resonate with music fans of all ages.
In 2017 “Dazza Brazza” was admitted to the ARIA Hall of Fame and was joined on stage by Guy Sebastian (above) and Vera Blue in an emotional rendition of The Horses.